- Craig Haubert, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
When it comes to finding talent, most would agree that Florida, Texas, California and Georgia offer the best pool of gridiron prospects, but South Carolina may actually produce the best talent pound-for-pound. Despite having a slightly more shallow talent pool, the Palmetto State has produced many ESPNU 150 prospects and is poised to produce its second No. 1 overall player in defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (Rock Hill, S.C./ South Pointe). In addition to the ultra-talented defender, the state has produced players like Da'Quan Bowers who was No. 1 overall in the 2008 class, as well as wide receiver A.J. Green, defensive back Stephon Gilmore, defensive end Robert Quinn and receiver Alshon Jeffery, to name a few.
South Carolina's 2011 class features not only the top player in the nation, but also the top receiver prospect in the country in Charone Peake (Roebuck, S.C./Dorman). While 2011 has seen the state actually produce its lowest number of ESPNU 150 prospects since the rankings began, there is still good talent available in the state, with prospects like athlete Everett Golson (Myrtle Beach, S.C./Myrtle Beach), wide receiver Hakeem Flowers (Greenville, S.C./ Wade Hampton) and defensive lineman Roderick Byers (Rock Hill, S.C. / Northwestern).
DE Jadeveon Clowney
The top player in the state is also the top player in the country, and a strong debate could be made about whether he's the best prospect ever in the ESPNU 150 era. The Under Armour All-American possesses a wonderful combination of size, speed and athleticism. At 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, he is already a physically impressive prospect, but he also has room to get bigger. Clowney has all the tools to be a pass-rushing nightmare -- he can fire off the ball, get quick penetration and create havoc in the offensive backfield. Plus, he runs so well it is not unusual to see him chase down ball carriers. While he can often get away with his raw athleticism in high school, he should quickly make a difference at the college level.
Remember this name
Shamier Jeffery (Saint Matthews, S.C./ Calhoun County)
The last name may ring a bell to South Carolina and SEC fans because he is the younger brother of current standout Gamecocks receiver Alshon Jeffery. The younger Jeffery does not possess the overall size or the hype his older brother did coming out of high school, but he is someone to keep an eye on as he is a good athlete in his own right. He may not be as big as Alshon, but he has good size for a receiver and displays fantastic hands. Like his older brother, he does not possess ideal top-end speed, but is a physical receiver with deceptively good speed for his size. He can make tough, acrobatic catches and can win jump balls. He needs some polish, which could come with focusing on just the receiver position, but the younger Jeffery displays playmaking ability as well.
Taking up residence
Here are the colleges that are doing best with prospects from South Carolina:
The Tigers do well in-state and this year have landed a commitment from the top receiver prospect in the country. Peake, the No. 2-rated prospect in South Carolina, is a huge get for Clemson because he has the ability to be an impact player at the position and he fills a need. In addition to Peake, the class consists of nine other in-state commitments led by a trio of high-three-star prospects in quarterback Tony McNeal (Chester, S.C./Chester), outside linebacker B.J. Goodson (Lamar, S.C./Lamar) and defensive tackle DeShaun Williams (Central, S.C./D.W. Daniel).
The Vols have come into South Carolina and landed a pair of good prospects in tough, well-rounded safety Patrick Martin (Greenville, S.C./ J.L. Mann) and quarterback Justin Worley (Rock Hill, S.C./Northwestern). Martin is a scheme-versatile defensive back who understands the position and is fundamentally sound, while Worley's an accurate, efficient passer who won't take a lot of risks.
The Gamecocks recruit their home state well and have gotten good production from in-state prospects like Jeffery, Gilmore and running back Marcus Lattimore. Their current class doesn't include any of the top 10 prospects from the state, but they have landed some good prospects from within their own borders like offensive tackle Brandon Shell (Goose Creek, S.C./Goose Creek). Also among their four in-state commitments is corner Ronnie Martin (Spartanburg, S.C./Spartanburg) who helps fill a need. The Gamecocks may not have a big haul from in-state at this point, but they are strongly in the mix for Clowney.
The Fighting Illini have come south to the Palmetto State to land a pair of three-star prospects. Inside linebacker Ralph Cooper (Winnsboro, S.C./ Fairfield Central) and safety Zeph Grimes (Bamberg, S.C./ Bamberg-Ehrhardt) are the second- and third-rated prospects in Illinois' class.
Craig Haubert is the recruiting coordinator for ESPN Recruiting and has more than a decade of coaching experience. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.